Benny Hill's comedy was rooted in the sexual repression of the 50s. Along came the sexual revolution- and a new openness- and his leery double-entendres and jokes about inflatable breasts- once cheekily daring- were now too mild and too furtive. He carried on regardless- and the TV bosses axed his show and banished his tapes to the most cobwebby corner of the storeroom.
He got a bum rap. We were watching him yesterday- and a lot of his stuff is still very funny. The darkly brilliant sketch (prophetic of Alan Partridge) in which he plays a smarmy chat show host whose guests drop dead and expose themselves and answer questions monosyllabically had me laughing out loud. Yes, there were also the slightly embarrassing jokes about dirty old men and funny foreigners- but other comics of the same generation- the Two Ronnies for starters- worked the same sort of material- and got away with it. Hill was scapegoated. Someone should have taken him aside and offered him a sit-com or asked him to play Bottom or Touchstone. There are ways of prolonging a career in comedy- and it's a shame that Hill- who was both a very funny man and a TV pioneer- should have ended his so bitterly.